Today many people make fun of music in the Eighties when pop stars sported ultra-teased mullets, super-wide shoulderpads, leg warmers and cut sweatshirts. Coming after the hard edge of punk, the sugary exuberance of Top of the Pops UK bands today seems quaint and something we sometimes like to forget we actually thought was rebellious at the time. Yet it’s easy to forget that for a lot of the ‘80s, only handful of Brit hits makers made the US Top 40, like Flock of Haircuts—excuse me Seagulls—, The Police, Human League, Soft Cell and Tears for Fears before John Hughes movies made at least one song by Simple Minds and a de-angrified Psychedelic Furs temporarily cool.
On the other hand, our charts were loaded with big-haired hard rock and metal bands from Van Halen to Bon Jovi, Cinderella to Motley Crue. Michael Jackson was the King of Pop. Billy Ocean crooned “Caribbean Queen,” Rick James undulated to “Super Freak,” Huey Lewis claimed the “Heart of Rock n Roll, Prince spawned an fleet of protégées, and Madonna seemed to spawn an entire genre to herself.
While many cover bands play ‘80s music, Atlanta’s Denim Arcade tries to capture both the decade’s sense of fun and unique sound using similar equipment from guitars to keyboards—the signature instrument of synth pop. Made up of seasoned musicians out to have some fun, Denim Arcade includes Wade Finch (lead and rhythm guitar) and John Christopher (bass), who first played together in the alternative band Noise Dot Com; Andy Womack, who has drummed in a wide variety of bands for more than 20 years including Atlanta-based Renaissance Festival phenomenon, The Lost Boys; and lead vocalist Becky Cormier Finch, best known for Three Quarter Ale, a fast-growing popular Celtic rock band that was a finalist recently on the GEORGIA LOTTERY’S ALL-ACCESS MUSIC SEARCH show.
ATLRetro caught up with Becky to find out why these talented musicians decided to go back to the Eighties, what to expect at their next show this Saturday starting at 10 PM at @tmosphere, and what’s up next for Three Quarter Ale.
I understand Denim Arcade actually grew out of another ‘80s cover band called Great Scott. How did the band get started and get its name?
Both bands got started because of friends with a shared love of ‘80s music and a love of performing. “Great Scott,” of course, is Doc Brown’s signature phrase in BACK TO THE FUTURE. We had a line-up change, and decided that with a female lead singer, “Great Scott” didn’t really fit. No one in the band is named Scott, anyway! I believe a group of friends was at Manuel’s Tavern, having a conversation about quintessential ‘80s things, and my friend Bettina just blurted out “Denim Arcade” and it stuck!
Some people today might think an ‘80s cover band is kind of lame. Why are they wrong and isn’t some of the fun celebrating the lameness of some ‘80s songs?
For me, it’s the music I grew up with. It brings back so many good memories of my childhood. And it’s just FUN, danceable party music. And celebrating the cheese factor is absolutely some of the fun of it!
What are a few of your favorite ‘80s songs to play and why?
“Synchronicity II” by the Police tops my list of favorite songs to sing. It’s unexpected for me to sing it, and I get to let out my rocker chick side. “Walkin’ on Sunshine” by Katrina and the Waves is just a fun, upbeat song that makes me happy. And I like playing “Jump” by Van Halen, because I get to show off on the keyboards a little. Now I’ll just pray that I don’t mess up my solo!
Is there any band which you think is the quintessential ‘80s band, and how essential was big hair to success in music back then?
Wow. Great question! I have to say, I’m not sure big hair was a totally essential part of success—unless you were in a Hair Metal band, of course!—but I think having a specific style was VERY important. With the advent of music video, having a signature look was almost as important as having a signature sound. I would have to say that Duran Duran is probably my vote for quintessential ‘80s band. They had the look, they made these amazing videos, and their music is the epitome of the New Wave sound.
Your band name includes the word “arcade” and yout Website is modeled after a video game. Do you pay homage to that ’80s craze in any way on stage, too?
Not yet, though we’ve talked about trying to get some posters or video game type props. We did paint some of our gear stands in neon colors, and we all sort of dress in ‘80’s style. I’ve got the Madonna look going on with lots of jelly bracelets, our drummer Andy goes for the hair metal look, our bassist John has the Asia style (boxy jacket with rolled sleeves, skinny tie), and Wade is working on an Adam Ant-style costume.
What’s the funniest totally ‘80s thing that’s ever happened at a Denim Arcade gig?
Well, we’ve played AnachroCon [an Atlanta steampunk convention] for the last two years, so it’s always fun to have folks in bustles and goggles dancing to ‘80s music. The 1880’s meets the 1980’s! And I always love to see when people come out in their best ‘80s fashion—tight roll those jeans, tease that hair, pull out the skinny tie! It’s all back in style now anyway!
Loganville seems like a long way. What’s so special about @tmosphere and why should people make the trek?
It’s got a great stage, room to dance and even pool tables on the upstairs level. The staff is super nice, and they have great drinks as well!
For those who can’t make it, are there any other Denim Arcade gigs on the horizon?
OK, let’s get really Retro. The Georgia Renaissance Festival just came to close, which was a busy time for Three Quarter Ale. What’s next for that group?
We’ll be appearing at the Midsummer Night’s Eve Festival on June 25 at The Village at Indian Springs in Flovilla, GA. Many of our friends from the Renaissance Festival will be there in all their faerie finery!
Did being a finalist in the GEORGIA LOTTERY ALL-ACCESS MUSIC SEARCH change your lives?
I don’t know if it was a life-changing experience, but we were certainly grateful to be a part of it, and to bring our own style of Celtic/folk/madrigal/Renn rock to an audience that had never heard that style of music before. We had people coming up to us all throughout the Faire saying, “Hey, I saw you on TV!” which was really cool.
Finally, coming back to Denim Arcade, do I have to add extra mousse, tease my hair and wear shoulderpads to come Saturday night?
You don’t have to, but you probably won’t be alone if you do!